Don't use Essentials, it's buggy and conflicts with many other plugins. I am not a big fan of monolithic plugins in general. A plugin should be small, efficient, and do just one or two things very well. When you try to do everything, you end up not doing any of them efficiently. With that in mind, I recommend you use one of these plugins if you want to spawn items with data values:
General (Either the Chernobyl or Dvorak builds)
The only Essentials anything I use is Groupmanager, which is actually very nice and much more functional than Permissions.